MINSK, 2011 A Reply to Kathy Acker
devised by Belarus Free Theatre adapted by Vladimir Shcherban.
Young Vic (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 23 June 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 20 June 2.45pm.
Runs1hr 25min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 June at The North Wall Oxford.
Terrific performance, terrifyingly true.
In their show New York in 1979 Belarus Free Theatre worked on American punk experimentalist Kathy Acker’s sexually-charged N.Y.C. in 1979; now (15 years after her death) arrives their bitter performance about sex and their own city. The big difference is that Acker could say or write pretty much what she wanted; these people end their show with an appeal and bucket-collection to fund a performance back home.
What’s surprising is they’re contemplating that, having been largely kicked out of Belarus. If theatre today really means protest and if artists are the conscience of their nation, it’s people like these. One of the performers listed below has been arrested four times, and all his plays have been banned. And scenes here show, being arrested in Belarus is a painful experience.
So is speaking-up, or even looking as though you might. Minsk 2011 opens with an empty stage, fronted only by a microphone. One by one people walk up to it. None is naïve enough to think they could voice their ideas. But even showing a flag brings arrest. By the end, just being there does. Don’t be seen standing alone is the bleak message.
And the oppression staunches the liberation of sexual individuality. It’s Orwellian, and Kafkaesque (here; now; in Europe). A workers’ canteen by day transforms to a gay nightclub after hours. Wild sex is underground in ways Acker never knew.
Sensations, and then again sensations – sex, drink, drugs form releases from a system both brutal and mind-numbing. The law says a city of 800,000 should have underground trains; on the day inhabitant 800,000 is born, work begins below ground. Pleasure and pain combine in an individual account with wider implications as a man draws scars over his body, explaining the origins of each one.
The final image comes from the group, fusing performance and life as the cast line-up on chairs, introducing themselves and their history. Gradually, as if mocking comfortable theatrical tradition, they raise a red strip of carpet across their bodies. Our entertainment is their blood; their determination to perform is the performance’s message of hope.
Performers: Aleh Sidorchyk, Aliaksia Naranovich, Dzenis Tarasenka, Maryna Yurevich,
Pavel Radak-Garadnitski, Siarhei Kvachonak, Viktiriya Biran, Yana Rusakevich, Yuliya Shauchuk.
Director: Vladimir Shcherban.
Designers/Costume: Vladimir Shcherban, Nicolai Khalezin, Natalia Kaliada.